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Dark Age Warriors from Gripping Beast

The Dark Ages of history are those periods when a great empire or civilisation collapses and the people who come after live in a diminished social/economic/cultural state. Often the ability to write is lost and so the period is 'dark; to the historian in a way that the previous golden age of literature and culture was not. Two examples of such periods are the Greek Dark Ages following the Bronze Age Collapse of the 12th Century BC and the Northern European Dark Ages following the end of the Western Roman Empire in the Early 5th Century AD.

The Miniatures I have painted recently have been for this Northern European Dark Age when large hairy men hacked and slayed their way happily across Western Europe with nothing better to do for hundreds of years ...... apparently. As you can probably tell I am a tad wary of these characterisations and the perjorative associations. Whilst true the economic and cultural levels were diminished I can't help but think that maybe the people at the time living the Dark Ages probably didn't see them as particularly dark at all.

Anyway on with the minis which are typical Dark Age fare to a point with a bunch of hairy arsed Anglo Saxons and a bunch of hairy arsed Vikings. These are distinguished by almost nothing in terms of arms, armour and hairy arses. The main distinctions are that the Vikings have a tiny Thors hammer amulet around their necks whilst the Anglo Saxons have a Christian Cross. Additionally, added to the minis and not supplied, there are different shield design decals.

The Anglo Saxons - mainly unarmoured here as i had sent the armoured guys away before photographing which was stupid but here we have a chieftain and his red dragon bannerman. I thought that the dragon banner was used by the Romano British rather than their enemy the Saxons, which is why it carried through onto the Welsh flag (the true British) but here it is in the pack so i'm sure somebody has done the research better than me. In fairness this would be easy as i haven't done any.

Here we see a variety of helmets from the mark 1 bald head to allow weapons to just slide off through the later style and back to the more Sutton Hoo style with decorated eyebrow ridges.

There are a variety of hand weapons included in the boxes but mainly spears which were the main weapon throughout the period presumably due to their cheapness and ease of learning. Probably a lot less effort in learning spearwork than the sword or axe. With the bonus of keeping your enemy just a bit further away.

The Vikings - or as they called themselves - something else. As with many historical names the peoples we lump together as Vikings would know the word Vikingr as an activity, raiding and robbing, rather than as an ethnic group. For we in England, or Angleland, we would have known them as Danes whilst in Scotland and Ireland as Norse.

Again the box contains a mix of armoured hirdmen types and more numerous unarmoured Bondi along with a chief and a man with a big horn....

Here we see the armoured men mainly with hand weapons but a few with the ubiquitous spear. Oddly there were no horned or winged helmets included......just boring Spangelhelms.

While here we have the less fortunate unarmoured, although to be honest I would have preferred to be unarmoured as you could stand around at the back and let the big boys with armour do the fighting only joining in when it was safe or alternatively being the first and fastest to flee if it looked dubious.

And there I am in the green, bald, at the back on the left safely behind 2 rows of keener guys. If this raid turns out to be Lindisfarne I'm all in - if its Edington I'm off!

Shieldmaidens - not sure where I stand on these. On the one hand they are straightforward female figures in the correct clothing for the day not some ridiculous fantasy miniatures, on the other hand are they actually just fantasy miniatures as they didnt exist?

Some people point to the Birka female burial as proof that shield maidens are not just a literary conceit from Viking Sagas. New evidence from mass graves of warriors also seems to show a higher proportion of females than expected - though these may have been camp followers slaughtered post battle.

If they existed then the question arises, would they have fought as a distinct band as here in this Gripping Beast Saga box or mixed in with the men as seems more likely? Here in this box we get a Hawk wielding leader which is a nice figure, 4 heavily armoured huscarl equivalents seen above, 4 berserker equivalents below and 16 largely unarmoured bondi equivalents.

Here are the Berserkers. I just cant see this being a thing due to anatomy really. Once again GB dont give us the Fantasy viking but even so I just dont see see it working other than the sensible lady on the right who has gone for a proper dress and sports bra rather than relying on optimistically placed fur.

Much better are these ordinary shieldmaidens with a mix of armour types from none to scale via padded and leather. I like that they are generally very much behind their shields as well. If they were an actual thing I would have expected their enemies to mention it, especially the Christian Anglo Saxons who would see it as typical pagan sinning. However they dont so overall call me dubious!

The whole GB box in mob formation.


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